1) I’m addicted to it. I joined Facebook in 2007. That’s pretty early, especially for someone who didn’t go to Harvard and has been out of college for a loooong time. Since then, I have spent literally hours a day perusing its pages. Hours. A. Day. Do you realize what hours a day adds up to over seven years? I don’t even want to do the math, as I know it will depress me. Here’s what else I’ve done since 2007: Gained 50 pounds and watched my social life plummet. I have been on Facebook so thoroughly and for so long that when I open a web browser my fingers automatically type Facebook.com in the url bar. I wish that was a joke. It’s not.
Mind you, I’ve cultivated quite a persona on Facebook (more on that later) and have two very active and engaged business pages there. Facebook also has allowed me to see photos and hear updates from family and friends whom I easily would not otherwise be in communication with. I have reaped the good benefits of Facebook. But the hours sitting in front of a computer just tapping that refresh bar over and over again like a lab rat with a morphine drip have greatly diminished the good parts. To those of you who suggest that I just “don’t log in as often” I have this response: What part of addicted don’t you understand? That’s like telling someone who drinks too much to buy the booze and keep it in the cupboard but not to drink any of it. (And yes I’ve literally tried that. Shut up.)
2) It gives a false sense of relationship. At a business conference I attended last week, one of the speakers said “You are the average of the top 5 people with whom you spend the most time.” (The idea being to surround yourself with people who will lift you up.) When I stopped to create my list of my top 5 people … I couldn’t come up with 5 people with whom I spend time. I spend time with my husband. I talk to my sister on the phone a few times a week. I talk to my other sister and my parents on the phone less often than that. I text my kids. But even then, do you see what happened there? After my husband there was no face-to face in-person interaction on any sort of a regular basis. But I chat with people all day long on Facebook.
At this same conference we were encouraged to nourish our relationships. Which is, I think, an excellent suggestion. But Facebook is not relationships. Facebook is “friendship.” I need more relationships where I’m actually talking to people live (in person, when possible, on the phone when not) and we can interact intimately back and forth about how we’re doing, how we’re feeling, what’s really going on in our lives. How many times have you had something that you needed to talk about but you didn’t dare put it on Facebook? Who have we become?
3) It gives you the wrong impression of me. I’ll tell you who we’ve become. We’ve become a world of micro-celebrities. In the Facebook world we all have our Warholian “15 Minutes of Fame” and have developed our images accordingly. But are they who we really are?
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of “Oh, Leslie’s so loud! Leslie’s very opinionated.” I get that or I get “Leslie’s such a smart-ass! Leslie’s funny.” People with whom I have but a passing acquaintance seem to feel comfortable razzing me on Facebook and telling me what a loudmouth I am. I think to myself You don’t know me well enough to talk to me like that. You know what I don’t hear? “Leslie is kind. Leslie is thoughtful. Leslie is smart. Leslie is compassionate.”
Here’s the thing: I can’t blame this on them. Two things are at fault here: Facebook, and me (not necessarily in that order.)
Facebook is at fault because it gives us the idea of connection. I’m reminded of interviews I’ve seen with celebrities, especially ones who’ve been on TV, who have the challenge of the general public thinking they know them. And why wouldn’t they think that? This person is in their living room all the time. I think there’s part of that going on. On Facebook, we’re in each other’s living rooms and bedrooms; in each others purses and pockets. It feels intimate.
Moreover, I’m at fault, because I have become very lazy in how I show up in the world. Instead of making the effort to call friends, schedule lunches or coffees or write letters I just pop onto Facebook and leave a quick comment or, even lazier, a “like.” Instead of taking the time to write a thoughtful essay, I just write a quick satirical comment that I know will get “shared”. And, so, people come to think of me as funny, loud, and opinionated. (I thought I was being witty, satirical and observant but whatever.) People don’t know the more reflective, considerate parts of me because Facebook doesn’t show that, and I haven’t shown that on Facebook.
Or maybe most people on Facebook are just knuckle-dragging, cousin-fucking morons.
4) It gives me the wrong impression of you. See, now was that nice of me to question your posture or relationship with your cousin? Of course not. I’m sure you’re a very thoughtful, loving, upstanding person who loves their family and their country and just wants to do what’s best for the world.
Problem is, the stuff you “share” on Facebook makes you look like an idiot.
I don’t want to know what Harry Potter character you are. I don’t want to play Farmville or CandyCrush. I don’t want to click here to see that Obama is a secret Muslim or that welfare queens want to take our guns. I don’t want to “sign this petition to tell Facebook to change [insert whatever latest modification Facebook has made here]”
I don’t want to partake anymore in the inanity.
5) It’s creepy and divisive. As I said, I’ve been on Facebook for a long time, and a lot of changes have come down the pike. The biggest one for me has been the continued refinement of their newsfeed algorithm.
Every time you click on something or like it, Facebook factors that in to your feed to figure out what to show you next (along with the advertisers who have identified you as their target and paid Facebook money.) They continually refine, refine, refine to try to show you exactly the kind of things they think you want to see.
You know what this does? It divides people. Me, I’m a bleeding heart liberal, so when I see stuff that skews conservative I either ignore it, block it, or remove it from my feed. You know what that does? Makes more liberal stuff show up in my feed. Which just reinforces my beliefs and doesn’t get me any closer to rapprochement with “the other side.” Multiply that times a billion or however many users Facebook has now. Who is served? How does that make the world better?
Here’s a link to a really interesting article about a guy who did an experiment where he “liked” everything on Facebook. It’s very informative … and very creepy: I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me
So that, friends, is why I’m deactivating my Facebook account (but not my business pages. I’m crazy, I’m not stupid.) Note that word: deactivating. Facebook offers two options: deactivating, which basically makes your account seem to disappear but actually saves all your stuff so you can turn it back on if you come back and deleting, which makes it disappear for real. So there’s every possibility I’ll be coming back at some point. If my track record with giving up other addictions (see alcohol, section one) is any indication, you can bet on it. Thoughts? The comment box is open.